I’m having a bit of obsession over beans these past few months. Went berserk and got myself quite a large collection of dried beans the other week, from black eyed peas to garbanzo beans, pimento, black beans, multiple kinds of lentils, lima beans, edamame beans, soy beans, mung beans. Beans, beans, BEANS!
Human truth: You can’t have too much beans. Really.
Of course this applies only if you like beans.
Well… I love beans. I do!
About 6 weeks ago, I went to an event at one of Tokyo’s ‘instution’, The Pink Cow. For some reason, that evening’s buffet plan was a vegetarian one. I was on my off-carbs South Beach Diet period, and had a small selection of food that I could pick through, and was dutifully keen to find non-carby stuff.
There was a big tureen filled with this thick browny soupy stuff. After poking through it, discovered that it contained black eyed peas and a bunch of veggies. That particular dish really wasn’t much to look at, but seems like the safe selection for me to go for. This is a true example that when it comes to food, sometimes you can’t judge how it’s presented. It is a buffet menu, to begin with, not fine dining – so presentation is not high on the list of priority (vs. quantity, ha!).
I took a spoonful of this thing and then my mind just went quiet. Oh. My. God. It was DELICIOUS!
That first mouthful was very flavourful. At the first go, you can’t quite identify what is in it, but it on your second mouthful your tastebud expands, and little by little you recognise the flavour of thyme, sage, basil, chilli pepper, black pepper… And then I tried to decide if it has curry powder or garam masala in it.
It was such a delightful bite.
Since then I decided I should try to replicate this dish at home. 4 tries I did that, all to good result, but never quite gave me the same sensation. I felt it didn’t quite hit the mark. What did I do wrong? I tried all sorts of curry combination, adding a bit more cumin, nutmeg, sage. More sage and thyme. Still didn’t quite make it there.
2 weeks ago I found myself visiting the Cow again. This time it was to catch Sarah Outen‘s talk for her London2London via the World mission Chapter 2. I know I was going there to support my Mouse, but I found myself thinking of that delightful curried beans yet again. “I should ask order for one of that!” So I decided.
Looking at the menu, I couldn’t find anything that resembles the dish. Confused, I asked the bartender, “Do you have different menu if you have a vegetarian evening?”
“Yes we do,” he said. “Here look at this menu instead,” he said again after I tried to explain what I was looking for.
Scanning the menu… “It’s not here,” said I.
“Hmm… are you sure you had that food here?”
“Yes! I’m sure I did, because I had looked at the menu 20 times now, trying to figure out what it’s called! Can I please speak with Chef Andy?”
I had to wait a little bit, but finally Andy finished his duty in the kitchen and came out. He listened to my explanation, and said…
“Sweetie, it’s not from the vegetarian menu! It’s Jamaican jerk beans! It’s not a curry, it’s a soup! I made a batch for the night prior and served it the following day for the event you came to! Beans always taste better the next day.”
“No wonder I couldn’t find the right recipe for it. I’ve been searching like a headless chicken for a curried beans recipe, and it didn’t taste the same!!!”
“OK, since you like it that much, I’m going to give you the recipe.”
And thus, this Jerk Pinto Beans are created. I also decided that a Jamaican dish will go very well with couscous. Enjoy!
Jerk (Pinto, can also be Black Eyed Peas) Beans + Couscous
1 cup of dried (or 1x 400-gram canned) Pinto Beans/ Black Eyed Peas/ Garbanzo beans (choose at your own peril, I ran out of Black Eyed Peas and resorted to Pinto beans at the time of working on this recipe)
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
Dried herbs (1 tsp each of thyme, basil, oregano, sage, smoked paprika, chilli pepper, black pepper)
1 tsp salt
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped in chunks
1 stick leek, chopped in 2 cm cuts
1 400 grams of chopped tomatoes (of course you can replace with fresh tomatoes)
1 liter soup stock
1 cup dried couscous
The night prior to cooking the jerk beans (if using dried beans):
- Soak pinto beans overnight. Water should cover all the beans and a bit more (about 5 cm above the surface of beans.
- Rinse beans, put them into a stock pot. Cover with water at least 5 cm above the beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let beans sit in covered pot for 60 minutes. Drain and rinse once again.
- It’s OK to leaved boiled beans over night. Drain and rinse before cooking it into jerk chicken.
- If using canned beans, drain and rinse beans in a colander and put aside until step 3.
- In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat olive oil on medium heat, saute garlic and onion until fragrant and onion transparent.
- Add celery and pinto beans in, mix well. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.
- Add all the ‘dried herbs’ in, mix well. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add leek and cook quickly until wilted.
- Add tomatoes and cook until everything sort of immersed together
- Add soup stock, jack the heat up to high, bring to a boil
- Bring the heat down to low, simmer for 30 minutes
- In the meantime prepare couscous as directed in the package. Mine didn’t have English instruction, so this is what I did: put couscous in a big bowl, sprinkle about 1 Tbsp olive oil. Mix well. Add 2 cups of boiling water (always keep this ratio: 1 cup of couscous – 2 cups of liquid). Cover with lid for 5 minutes (this was the package direction: 5 minuti). Fluff with a fork.
- Check the beans and correct seasoning with salt and pepper
- Put some couscous in an individual soup tureen. Top with a ladleful of jerk beans. Add a tsp of harissa and enjoy!
* Serves 4
** Chef Andy said that if you leave the cooked jerk beans overnight, flavour will develop further. I didn’t have the patience to wait and finished them very quickly. My suggestion is to make double the recipe and let half the batch sit overnight. Will test this trick next time.